During two separate phone interviews, Brookhaven Town Clerk incumbent Donna Lent (I) and Democrat challenger Cindy Morris spoke of efficiency and transparency.
Morris said before last year’s presidential race, which awakened her politically, she didn’t vote in local elections. It’s what motivated her to run for a position in town government.
“We cannot do anything on a national level if we’re not doing it on a local level,” Morris said.
The candidate said she has been a consultant for nearly a decade, working with organizations. She looks at them strategically to help build more sustainable plans to serve their end users in the best way possible while sticking to a budget. It’s something she said needs to be brought to town government by finding creative and smart plans. Morris’ goals are to save taxpayers money while creating a town clerk’s office that is more efficient, and a local government that is transparent.
“We cannot do anything on a national level if we’re not doing it on a local level.”
— Cindy Morris
Lent, who is running for her second term, managed a lawyer’s office before beginning public service in 2001, when she became former state Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington’s chief of staff. When Eddington became Brookhaven Town Clerk, Lent joined her as deputy town clerk.
Lent said some of the responsibilities of the clerk’s office include serving as the Freedom of Information Law appeals officer; recording births, marriages and deaths; attending town board meetings to record the minutes; and being the custodian of town records, which include the management of both active and inactive records. Lent said she is hands-on in an office where 200 or more people can come with requests in one day.
“It’s helpful to build a repertoire with constituents so that they feel that they’ve been heard, that you’re about to assist them in taking care of problems,” Lent said.
Morris said she believes things can run more efficiently at the office, and if elected, she plans to analyze what the peak times are at the office and see where hours can be extended or if weekend hours can be offered. She also suggests offering additional services such as a curbside program for those who may come in for a handicapped parking sticker instead of them needing to mail a form or come down in person. She said she would look for ways to increase services while keeping costs down.
“Every service needs to be thought of in how it affects the constituents who use it,” Morris said.
Lent said she has brought more efficiency to the office. Among her accomplishments she lists the management of an archives scanning project for the majority of town departments and the implementation of a moving forward process for the digitization of records. She has created an online death certificate ordering process for funeral directors, and in the future, she hopes to implement an online process for residents to obtain and renew dog licenses. She said most services are available online except for obtaining a marriage or hunting and fishing license.
“Any time you can save time in government, you’re saving money.”
— Donna Lent
Lent said the scanning of records and offering of online processes have streamlined many requests.
“Any time you can save time in government, you’re saving money,” Lent said.
Morris said she would like to create more transparency in government by holding town board meetings later in the evening instead of 5 p.m. so those who commute to and from work can attend them. Another one of her suggestions is to use Facebook Live for meetings.
“It takes what’s being done and brings it to a new level, and it brings it to a new level by using technology that has become for many people simple technology,” she said.
Lent pointed out how town hall meetings are already livestreamed on the town’s website, and she said she wouldn’t want the council people to become distracted by comments on Facebook.
“If you can get onto Facebook, you can get on the town’s system to watch it,” Lent said.
Morris said she doesn’t suggest the legislators look at their phones during meetings; however, she said aides can monitor the messages and alert the council person if anything is urgent, or suggested comments be read after the meeting.
“The intention is to hold a light to what it is happening in our town council meetings,” Morris said. “That’s the goal.”
As a newcomer, Morris said she has been studying the proposed budget for 2018 and has been attending civic meetings throughout the town because she realizes needs differ from area to area.
Lent said she knows many women have been encouraged to become more involved in politics, and she believes Morris is one of them.
“I say good for her,” Lent said. “I’d love to see more women involved in the process.”